Not only is sushi plentiful in South Jersey these days, the quality ranges from good to ridiculously good (examples of the latter being Sagami, in Collingswood, and chef Matt Ito’s Fuji, which closed last year and is about to reopen in Haddonfield). So it is tough for a new spot to carve out a niche. But Oh Yoko! seems to have done that, thanks to a serene little dining room, pristine fish, and service that makes you feel like your happiness really matters.
Run by chef Jin Sung and his wife, In Mi Jang, the 70-seat restaurant opened just over a year ago. Named after the John Lennon song “Oh Yoko,” it is the couple’s first venture of their own after working at Asian restaurants in the area. The song is on the dinner soundtrack, along with many Beatles hits. People I know who have dined at Oh Yoko! find the name and the Beatles music, however unconventional for a Japanese restaurant, oddly charming.
The dining room’s tranquil mood is set by pale pastels, pretty Tiffany-style lamps, comfy banquettes, and flickering tea candles. Tropical fish swimming across a plasma TV on the wall are just as soothing and mesmerizing as the real thing.
Jang fusses over every customer, recommending the best fish her husband has to offer that day. We take her at her word and are not disappointed. Loveboat for Two, a special the night we visited, was served on a wooden ship filled with ice, included uni, salmon, yellowtail, herring, octopus, eel, mackerel, and white tuna. The fish selection varies daily.
Sung has created several fun rolls: the Yoko, with shrimp tempura, eel, and avocado; the Titanic, with spicy tuna inside and plain tuna on top; the Philly, with salmon and cream cheese; and the Caterpillar, which adorably resembles its name, with spicy tuna inside and strips of avocado on top. And they brew their own soy sauce, which is richer and has a more intense flavor than the standard issue.
We were especially impressed with the fresh and clean-tasting ahi-tuna, a generous portion of smooth ruby medallions, barely seared on the exterior and served with a California roll on the side.
The cooked entrées are also beautifully presented. Pan-seared lemon pepper tilapia, for example, was light, fresh and flavorful, served with a tangy pineapple mango salsa, a mélange of sautéed vegetables, and a heart-shaped helping of rice pilaf.
Jang calls the food Japanese fusion, acknowledging the addition of certain American touches, such as a lovely spinach salad, a quite respectable crab cake, and terrific thin and crispy French fries—slathered, however, with too much sweetened wasabi sauce. Suggestion: Put the sauce on the side.
“Most Americans would not like only authentic Japanese food,” says Jang. “This way we give them a taste of the authentic, and a little more.”—Maureen Fitzgerald
- Cuisine Type:Asian - Japanese
- Price Range:Moderate
- Service:Very good
- Wine list:BYO